Matthew Chan, M.D.

Matthew Chan’s healthy interest in technology

During Matthew Chan’s school years, his friends relied on him as the “go-to” guy to answer questions about the technology of the day. If you wanted to know about the functions of your personal digital assistant, how to use your dial-up modem to log onto an online BBS bulletin board or the early Internet, or you wanted to know the best deals on computers, software and other electronics, you asked Matt.

Today he’s still that guy — but the stakes are much higher and the equipment legions more sophisticated. As a diagnostic neuroradiologist, Chan consults daily with physicians from other fields about which imaging studies to order and what the results reveal, ranging from annoying chronic maladies to life-threatening conditions.

Chan’s reputation as a tech-savvy clinician remains strong enough that it still precedes him even among his own radiology colleagues, who seek his technical support both on a routine basis and during major equipment investments.

“My expertise is in the interpretation of images, communication of the results, and ‘next steps’ for the patient and his or her primary physician,” says Chan, who obtained his undergraduate degree in physiology in 2000 and his M.D. in 2004, both from UC Davis. “But I also get calls from colleagues seeking general technical advice, whether they are having problems with the PACS — the computer system radiologists use to interpret images — or need help deciding which smartphone to buy.”

Chan is among the younger members of the School of Medicine Alumni Association’s board of directors, which he joined in 2011, only a year after beginning practice with Sutter Medical Group in Sacramento.

“I joined the board of directors in order to remain involved with UC Davis and to be a resource for other alumni as well as current students,” Chan explains. “I also wanted to help with the board’s fundraising efforts for the annual School of Medicine Alumni Association scholarship program.

“Alumni donations have been increasing each year, and in 2014 our efforts resulted in presenting 11 UC Davis medical students with $10,000 scholarships apiece. That’s very gratifying.”

Chan, whose father, Ken, was a chemical engineer for the Bureau of Land Management and whose mother, Rebecca, owned shoe stores, attributes his interest in medicine to his teachers at Kennedy High School in Sacramento.

“At Kennedy I participated in a lot of extracurricular math and science activities, including ‘Science Bowl’ and ‘Mathletes’ competitions. I was enrolled in the advanced biology program that taught college-level science, which helped develop my interest in physiology and medicine,” Chan adds.

He enjoyed all of his rotations in medical school, but radiology seemed to be the perfect fit.

“I’m totally a geek,” Chan chuckles. “I became fascinated by the interplay of the advanced equipment and the consultative role of the radiologist. Interpreting medical imaging is not magic. It’s the product of the experience of seeing thousands of cases and having a technical understanding of the equipment. It’s an interesting aspect of medicine that often contributes significantly to the diagnosis, management and treatment of disease.”

Neuroradiology typically is used in analyzing conditions involving the brain, face, neck or spine. Chan commonly performs neuro CT and MRI scans for patients who have experienced headaches, altered mental status, stroke, trauma and seizures, as well as to diagnose brain tumors, demyelinating disease (including multiple sclerosis), pediatric developmental delay, aneurysms and back pain. In some cases he incorporates CT and MR perfusion sequences when blood flow information may be helpful, such as in stroke or tumor imaging.

Radiology runs in the family for Chan. His younger sister, Danielle, his only sibling, is a radiologist specializing in women’s imaging, and his wife, Eva Chan, is a musculoskeletal radiologist. The couple, who have a 4-year-old daughter, are expecting their second child in June. His enduring interest in technology manifests itself in lots of electronic gadgets at home. He enjoys digital photography and building computers, and volunteers time as the social media manager for SacEV, the Sacramento Electric Vehicle Association.

“Eva and I own two electric vehicles, and almost 100 percent of our driving since mid-2013 has been electrically powered. We still have a gasoline minivan that we use occasionally, but plan to replace that with another EV this summer,” Chan says. “We never have to pay for ‘gas’ because our home has solar panels.”

While not all health providers may have his passion for things electronic, Chan encourages medical students as well as his fellow medical school alumni to keep pace with technological developments in their disciplines by seeking out opportunities to demo new equipment and software; embracing smartphones and tablets in the clinical setting; and taking advantage of the wealth of online medical resources.

He observes that numerous health systems have shifted to electric health record (EHR) systems. (In 2012 UC Davis Health System attained the highest level on the EMR progress model used at hospitals and health systems, placing it in the top 1.8 percent of hospitals nationwide at the time in terms of EMR use).

“For those about to undergo the transition to EHR, they have two options,” Chan says. “They can either 1) resist it until the very last moment, or 2) seek it out, be one of the pioneers, and help shape it for their health system and colleagues.”